Monday, November 02, 2009

The Politics of Sustainability #4 - "He was a bold man that first ate an oyster."

(Photo: RLW)

POINT REYS STATION, Calif. - What is sustainability? Is it the perfect balance between humans and their work in harmony with nature? Or is it the preservation of “nature” thrown back to a time before humans arrived?

Point Reyes is a spot of beauty seemingly in perfect harmony between man and nature. Kevin Lunny is the owner of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a 70-year-old company that predates the park it is in, Point Reyes National Seashore. The company works under a special permit, similar to that utilized by hundreds of such businesses that happened to be within the boundaries of our national parks when created.

The National Park District has said it will not renew Mr. Lunny’s permit when it expires in 2012. Federal law requires them to return the park to an “area of wilderness” by eliminating commercial activity. Does that mean “pre-Native Americans” I wonder.

Environmentalist groups and the federal government are against Mr. Lunny and his oyster farm. Politicians like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D) and local business groups are for the farm. It is an argument born of our marvelous heritage – the national park system. But it is a harbinger of the ultimate question for us here on earth, “How shall humans reach a sustainable balance on earth?”

Drakes Bay Oyster Company produces about 40% of the oysters grown in California. If the company is banned from the park those oysters will likely come from overseas, where sustainability is perhaps not as pressing an issue. When a developed country imports products from Third World countries to avoid despoiling their own shores, how does that help sustainability?

That is the rub really. Where do humans fit in the classic purist vision of pristine wildernesses? There are two billion humans on earth who have nothing – little food – no clean water – no land ownership. What of sustainability for them?

Richard Wottrich, Blog Editor

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